Remember when it seemed like peanut butter was pretty much your only option in the grocery store? Thankfully, those days are gone! Today, you'll find tons of different nut-butter options on the shelves of your local supermarket. But in this brave new world of nut butters, how’s a girl to know which protein-packed staple to slather on her snack?
“Ranking nut butters is like ranking veggies,” nutritionist Keri Glassman, R.D. says. “They’re all good!” Nuts help with weight loss (as long as you exercise portion control), prevent diabetes, fight cancer, and lower the risk of heart disease. All of the four nut butters listed below also have a nice balance of healthy fats, protein, and fibre, as well as stores of B, A, and E vitamins, folates, iron, zinc, magnesium, and potassium—making any of them a wise choice for wellness.
However, just as with vegetables, certain nut butters might be better suited to your personal nutritional needs and fitness goals. Coming to the rescue, Glassman broke down the specific pluses and minuses of each to make your next walk down the grocery-store aisle as smooth as Kraft's. Below, our ranking of nut butters from best to worst (but still pretty damn good).
1. Peanut Butter
There’s a reason this standby stays strong. “It’s high in monounsaturated healthy fats—the kind you want,” says Glassman. It’s also highest in protein, cheap, and available in some form almost anywhere that sells food, putting it at the top of our list as something you want to keep in your pantry. Being around a long time also gives peanut butter the advantage of being the most studied, and research has shown time and again that eating peanut butter regularly can help to decrease your risk of heart disease and diabetes. It’s also got ample amounts of iron and folate to help prevent anemia and for healthy pregnancy, potassium for your muscles, magnesium for your bones and to help you sleep, antioxidant vitamin E for your skin and to fight cancer, and vitamin B6 and zinc for your immune system.
Per 2 tablespoon serving: 191 cal, 16.4 g fat, 7.1 g carbs, 3.4 g sugar, 136 mg sodium, 1.6 g fibre, 7.1 g protein
2. Almond Butter
Almond butter has a similar nutritional profile to peanut butter, but it is significantly more expensive, which is why we gave it the silver medal instead of the gold. Purely nutritionally though, it is better, with slightly higher amounts of many of the same vitamins and health benefits as your pal PB. “Almond butter is the highest in healthy fats with about three grams more of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat per serving as compared to peanut butter, but less saturated fat, making it a great alternative daily go-to if you can afford it,” says Glassman. It’s perfect as a post-workout snack slathered onto apple slices or celery for a complete combo of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Believe us, we know how easy it is to get really committed to almond butter, but Glassman stresses that there is no need to keep you relationship monogamous. Almond farming uses a lot of water, so it’s good to mix it up with the other butters on this list if you’re feeling like giving Mother Earth some love, too.
Per 2 tablespoon serving: 196 cal, 17.8g fat, 6 g carbs, 2 g sugar, 73mg sodium, 3.3 g fibre, 7 g protein
3. Sunflower-Seed Butter (Sun Butter)
“SunButter is an excellent choice for anyone with a nut allergy or sensitivity,” Glassman says, “just make sure the brand you choose doesn’t have a lot of added sugar.” Sunflower-seed butter is also high in vitamins E and A, which are awesome for glowing skin and bright eyes, and boasts a whopping 100 mg of magnesium per serving (the highest of the bunch), making it a powerful inflammation regulator and beauty-sleep aid. However, it has the most calories per serving of all the nut butters we looked at (as well as a slightly lower protein count), so be sure not to go overboard when eating it.
Per 2 tablespoon serving: 197 cal, 17.7 g fat, 7.5 g carbs, 3.4 g sugar, 106 mg sodium, 1.8 g fibre, 5.5 g protein
4. Cashew Butter
“Cashew butter is sweeter than many other nut butters without added sugar because it’s a naturally sweet-tasting nut,” says Glassman, making this a satiating choice if you’re working on lowering your added sugar intake without sacrificing your sweet tooth. “But, it also contains the least protein.” So, while it’s great option to add to your arsenal, it’s not the best choice if you are trying to use nut butter as a way to up your daily protein intake. Think of cashew butter as a special and sweet treat to add to your nut butter lineup. But the higher price and lower protein count make it one you want to reach for every once in awhile as a healthy splurge, not as your main squeeze for smoothies, cooking, or protein-packed snacks.
Per 2 tablespoon serving: 195 cal, 17 g fat, 9.7 g carbs, 3 g sugar, 94 mg sodium, 1 g fibre, 3.9 g protein
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This article originally appeared on Women's Health US.